Sunday, September 26, 2010

Splinters: An experimental new zine on the horizon

So, for my final experimental writing assignment, I've chosen to create a zine. And, as the title suggests, it's got fragments of lots of stuff. The central focus is on poetry, prose poetry and flash fiction, and at the moment, I'm just under half way to the word limit. Most of it is one stream-of-consciousness prose poem, and the rest is short poems or flash fiction ranging from about 10-100 words. Some of it I wrote a while ago, some of it is real recent, some of it's just made up on the spot. But I'd like to think each piece has got its own charms.

What I've got so far:
Poem of ten lines by ten syllables (poem)
Mars (flash fiction)
Mr Goody Two Shoes (prose poem)
Waste-Paper Basket (poem)
Facebook Status Update: 23/09/2010 (flash fiction)
He Don't Live Here (flash fiction)
Brains (poem)
Linear Haiku (poem)
Someone told me... (flash fiction)

It's nothing really profound. Most of it's just little quirky stuff that's just good for a laugh. I'm also currently playing around with writing a poem called "Drunf" (in which I replace every instance of the letter 'k' with 'f' for no particular reason) and a story called 'A story I stole from a friend while they weren't looking', which isn't stolen, or based on anything anyone's written or shown me, more so it's just an opportunity for me to write something purposely bad and pretend I didn't write it. I was considering something along the lines of Twilight fanfiction, but I'm not sure yet.

But, as you can see, I'm not concerning myself with writing something amazing or brilliant. I'm just focussing on these quirky little stories and poems, and actually having fun with it. I've got a poem or two (I think it's just one at the moment) on facebook (brains) but I don't know, I may post some more things up there or up here, or just email what I've got to people who are interested in having a squizz. I'd like to put it up online when it's done, maybe, as an e-zine, I don't know, but again, that's if people would want it. Anyways, back to the random writings...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some kind of method

I never really thought of myself as a writer with a set moethod. I just do what I do, and it just 'is'. I like trying to blur the line between prose and poetry, however distinctly different and polarised my prose and poetry may seem.

I think, with poetry, it needs that strong core idea to begin with, as my poetry tends to be quite short. It needs presence, an idea, something specific that draws meanings and imagery from the text. I've found death is a good theme to work with, but I don't usually start on death until my poem's taken form. To me, poetry needs to really sink in. There's just no use having everything all out in the open. It would be boring. Easily dismissable. I recently wrote a poem about a terminally ill man whiling away the last of his days in an airport bar. I like to play with structure or sound, and sometimes I just feel like writing whatever, cutting out whatever lands on the page and letting it find its natural harmonies. As I'm having to think more and more about performance poetry recently, the more I feel compelled to define my poetry as primarily text-based. Sure, I'd like to write stuff that sounds nice, but I think you can fit more meaning onto a piece of paper than you can in air.

I feel like my prose is more liberating. It can start anywhere. It can end anywhere. It can mean whatever it wants to mean. Yes, ideas are good, but to me, short stories are something to mull over, to really let sit in the brain until new elements decide to reveal themselves. I feel like poetry is something best captured in the moment, whereas prose is a journey that takes the reader places. I feel like I can chop and change my mind with my short stories, and often enough I find myself bursting with excitement when I figure out a new idea that unlocks so many new ideas. And it can sometimes work as a chain of unexpected events, sort of like a Rube Goldberg story-writing-machine you could say. My last story was about a haunted blues club that drives a man to a violent madness. My current story is about the archangel, Gabriel turning his back on God and being reincarnated as Lucifer's brainchild; which then brings about a catastrophic apocalypse, with angels falling from the sky as Gabriel and Lucifer convert the world to Nihilism. Or something like that.

A lot of the time I try to tell people what my stories are about, and I find it difficult to say. Sometimes they're not about anything significant just yet, and I can't really define it, and sometimes I can't really say what it's about until it's finished.

Sometimes it feels painfully chaotic, sometimes it feels utterly hopeless. My collective writings are a real mess. But I think my method is one that works well for me - I play around with ideas until they feel right. I play around and try to have fun with it. Sometimes have fun with it. And I think that people see that I'm trying to do something different and interesting, and all I can hope is that they enjoy what I do. Not that my audience is all that large or anything...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Existential rambling: Salt

I started working on a new short story last night. I started again this morning. And I'm starting over again, for the third time and I think I've got the opening I want. I figured, might as well post the ramblings of my second attempt here:

We are a generation of people afraid to ask the hard questions. Put the chips in the deep fryer for five minutes. Burger bun. Meat, sauce, cheese, salad. Wrap it and bag it. Salt on the fries. Salt of the earth, it's not. Salt of your enemies rubbed into your eyes. Take it with a pinch of salt. Coke water, lollywater, take it with a pinch of salt. Generation of people who can't form questions beyond the point of fries; yes or no. Yes or no. Do you believe in God? Backs arch up like stray cats protecting their turf. We don't take kindly to your kind around here. Take your God talk and haul it off a cliff with some bricks. Forget faith, talk fries. Run your mouth over with a cheese grater and then tell me what you think of God.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Splinters of everything

So I finished writing my short story draft for dotdotdash's 'Jukebox' issue. And I really hope once I send it off they pick this one up.

It's about a haunted blues club on Esperance's coast. That's the easiest way to describe it. It also plays around with nested narratives, changes between first and second perspective, past and present tense, occasional splashes of almost stream-of-consciousness, and moments where I break the fourth wall.

I need to tidy up and tighten a lot of thing, but I think it's one of the most uniquely structured stories I've written, and it goes to a lot of strange places in such a short amount of time. I really hope dotdotdash pick this one up.

Over the next few months I'll no doubt be working on more short stories, a play, a performance poem, and maybe I'll come back to my verse novel which I haven't touched in quite a while. I don't have any assignments due for uni for the next two weeks, so I should have the chance to just relax, to write at my own pace, and enjoy it.

I'm also reading Ulysses at the moment, and really enjoying it. Really ripping through it.

Oh, and I'll get my results back for my first experimental writing assignment tomorrow, which I felt like I did really well in, so, fingers crossed for that. It's the unit I'm most confident in this semester, so I really want to do quite well with it...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A clusterfuck of genres

I've never been particularly warm towards the concept of genre. It's a label, a definition, a category of something that just is. I've said before that I like gothic horror and sci-fi and postmodern literature. But it's so broad. I like stories that fit into those genres, but I probably won't like every sci-fi story under the sun. It's just not the way things are. I'm more genre-neutral when it comes to music, but literature, I usually prefer nontraditional or contemporary genres and styles. Like the multiplicity of 'punk' genres. I've written steampunk and dieselpunk before, and I'm attracted to ideas of splatterpunk and bizarro fiction. Sometimes I find it difficult to figure out what genre I'm writing in. It's usually pretty obvious if something's sci-fi or young adult or romance, but personally, I like to play around with generic, sneak humour in to horror, make a real disaster out of it all.

I like to think I take after Chuck Palahniuk. I like to think I share his taste for chaos and almost nihilistic anarchy. I've heard the term 'transgressive fiction' used to label his work. But I'm not Chuck, I do things different. I'm a different writer. Would I write 'transgressive horror' or 'transgressive gothic' or 'transgressive bizarro'? You could probably argue for or against any of those titles and pitch at least half a dozen more. I could probably claim my latest work was a circuspunk story, although I think, within the confines of the punk genre, it is certainly a narrow sub genre. I think at the moment I'm hovering somewhere between transgressive fiction and bizarro fiction. I want to coin the term 'pickled punk' as a literary genre. They're the fetuses you find in jars of embalming fluids at carnival freak shows. Personally, I think it fits my current style pretty well. It's a somewhat removed and transformed version of reality, not so bizarre that it has very little or no grounding in reality, but bizarre enough that it makes your stomach turn.

Could it work, could it catch on? Probably not. But it's that sort of perverse attraction towards the horror, the grotesque, the fetus floating in the pickle jar, a sort of fantastical horror that allows me to say, "hey, sure, this may be pretty sick, but now I have your attention, here's a metaphor that relates to real world character/issues of morality." So, I guess, for now, I have a genre. And it starts with the Pickled Punk monologue, from 'the Giant'. I'm thinking of turning it into a prose poem and putting it up for publication.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Like a wrecking ball

I hang, suspended from a yellow crane, waiting for the eventual destruction.

For me, writing is all about buying time from my brain. Someone said something at uni today about their brain often working too fast to type down the flow of ideas. The formation of language on the page often becoming a fragment of the brilliance once envisioned, momentarily, then, gone as though it were simply never there at all.

It's like I've got a wrecking ball in my skull waiting for the words to form there, allowing the ideas to ferment (okay, maybe I've actually got a brewery in my head) before I knock them onto the page.

I've only written the one page of my stageplay, and while I plan on writing more tonight, to have a somewhat decent working draft to bring to class tomorrow, I've got a decent idea of how the story's mutated since I last wrote that page. So now I'm wondering, is this the same building that I knocked down the other day? It certainly looks different. Truth is, I don't really know.

Sometimes those spontaneous clusterfucks of words spilling onto the page without premeditative thoughts can be a godsend. Sometimes they can be fantastic filler while you think of the real juicy, real punchy words you want to throw on the page.

I'm writing an experimental short story for dotdotdash. It's linear (hmm... should I fuck with continuity too?), but the plot is something I find difficulty in putting into words. Something about a blues club and a haunted jukebox and nightmares folding in upon themselves. I've got stories within stories within stories, which sit alongside story fragments tossed about for good measure.

It's one of a very few stories that I've written that actually takes place in a real location in the real world. Sure, I made up the blues club, it doesn't really exist somewhere along Esperance's coastline, somewhere way down an old dirt track. But it does take place in a fictionalised Esperance, which you can find on a map, and the road along the cliffs and coast, that's there too. I can't recall exactly what the beaches over that side of town are like, but there are some beaches like the one I describe in the story. And, through some divine inspiration I've found myself taking the story in the most unlikeliest of places, Turkmenistan. And I'm currently about the point where I want to insert an author's note to suck the reader right out of the story to make them think about what they're reading. Like a wrecking ball, come back to reality, the fourth wall comes tumbling down.

I'm thinking of maybe making a zine out of it for my experimental writing assessment. Maybe formatting it to really flip things around. Maybe messing with typography and aesthetic apearance, or something along those lines. I guess it's sort of a natural progression from the stuff I've been writing lately. I'm usually pretty focussed on my narrator's subjective stance, playing around with language there. Now it's more layering in different voices, playing with tenses and perspectives, juxtaposing the surreal with the real, dreams commenting on reality, imagined characters commenting on real characters, authorial intrusion commenting on the narrative, blurring the lines of the story and splicing them into a multiplicity of meanings.

And the wrecking ball, swinging back and forth in my head, smashing my brains onto the floor, fragments upon fragments upon fragments that I cannot possibly pick up.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The onion metaphor

I'm sure you're familiar with the metaphor. Ogres are like onions because they have layers. Simple enough.

But really, the world is full of onions. People are layered. Objects are layered with meaning. Language is layered. They're all like onions.

So what has this got to do with writing?

Come back to people. People are layered. We enjoy reading because we like it when the characters surprise us. Their minds work in ways that we don't see. I hear often enough that characters are not real people. While this is most certainly true, while characters are subjective creatures of the author's narcissistic whatever, I find it helps to pretend they are real. You need to plant them, the little onion seeds of your characters in your fictional onion-layered world, with a brownish French onion sky, and you need to pretend these characters are real within your world and they are layered with characteristics and personalities that even you haven't met yet.

I find this separates the good stuff from the bad stuff, not just in novels and short stories, but in films and in TV shows. I get sick of Mr Predictable Action hero guy because he's superficial, he's filled with shit. He's butter through and through, he's spread thin with sameness and blandness.

I recently read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, which takes place in a god-infested America with so many archetypal gods it could have been so easy to go 'herp derp zeus throw lightning hurr', but rather it moulded these most basic of characters and ground them so deep into his world that their layers ran much deeper than our expectations.

I've recently warmed to the idea of the 'nested narrative' setting stories inside stories to comment on the original story, to mutate it, to change its meaning, to give it layers.

I think it's always good to show a few layers of a story, the characters, the layers of the narrative, and while it may be as simple as questioning the nobility of your protagonist, and while you don't need to peel through every layer that defines your character and defines your story, I think it's essential to always have something else going on, some layers to give your stories depth.